Monday, February 17, 2014

piano man

A neighbor of Mom's, I'll call him Jim, is often asked to play the piano for sing-along, if no one else has been scheduled that day.  He's been around for a few years. Jim must have dementia, because he too lives in Mom's neighborhood.

From Jim's piano style, you know he was once an excellent pianist.  Any song requested comes immediately to his fingers. Some ragtime, ballads, show tunes, hymns; he has played it all and his inner pianist remembers. Beautiful technique, full chords and melody, introductions and lots of feeling. Did he once play with the symphony? Was he a music professor at a university? Did he play with a big band? That is the past. Now Jim is loosing his battle with dementia.

Now Jim is only asked to play at the end of a sing along session. The activities staff know the songs, the ones he likes to play best, and the ones we all know by heart too.

"Hey Jim", the activities leader will suggest, "how about playing Yankee Doodle."

So we're singing along "...stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni, glory, glory hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on..."

Jim is redirected by the activities leader "Jim, would you please play Amazing Grace?"

So we're singing "... I once was blind but now I see, his truth is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!..."

Jim's inner record skips and his memory tracks jumps and we're once again singing a rousing refrain of "Glory, glory, hallelujah!"  He is stuck on this one song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".  As long as you let him play he will continue to play the refrain, over and over and over.

"Let's all sing Goodnight Irene."
"... good night Irene, good night Irene, I'll see you in my dreams, glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on. Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory..."

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

old wounds

Mom is so lost. She was very talkative today. Not too many real words, but she was chatty. She had a strong desire to talk.

She had some very important things to say to me (the woman in front of her.) But she was getting angry at her inability to make sentences.

Other times she would mumble a serious sentence with one or two real words and expect an answer or reply.  Go with the context and inflection I'm thinking,
"I don't know." "Sure I do."  "Oh yes!"  "Me too." "Yes, I agree."

Have I told you how much I hate this disease.

Many, many times today she got very sad and burst out crying.  It was so hard to calm her, redirect her, or sooth her.  Five minutes later she would burst out laughing. I don't know why.

Going through the old photos is usually a nice activity. But today it just caused her pain. She was asking (again, with babbled words) where was her mother? Is she really dead? Why didn't she know? Why didn't I tell her?  I'm beginning to wonder if, as a young woman, she was left in the dark by her father and aunts, to the nature and severity of her mother's cancer and death. I think they kept this information from her, and now this sadness and anxiety are coming back to her, over and over and over.

She never knew anything more than that her mother had cancer.  About thirty years ago, when my mother was older than her mother ever got the chance to be, she asked me if I knew how her mother had died, because she didn't.  I was shocked. So, I took myself to city hall and got a copy of my grandmother's death certificate.

Her sadness today bounced all over her life events.  Once again I was her sister, her mother, her daughter, and other unknown women.  Her communication style and mumblings with these other women changed as she was trying to communicate with them. 
Once she was talking about "my daughter".
I want to jump up and scream, "it's me Mom, I'm her. I'm right here."

Then later that day when she found me, she was so sad that she hadn't seen me in "so long", "so so long".  Again and again, her pain and sadness run so deep.

I don't like that my presence brings up all the old sad memories and anxieties.  I hate this disease.

I'm listening to the book "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: the lighter side of life as a mother and daughter." by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. It is a hilarious and poignant memoir. The chapter Love and Worry had me crying in my car, again, pull over and cry on the side of the road, and cry, cry for Mom.